Herasmo and his daughter Lupe went out for a nice meal at the local Chinese buffet.
Herasmo told Lupe a while back that he had never been to a Chinese restaurant because they scared him. Lupe heard this and figured that she’d take her father out for dinner once she received her first paycheck.
Her father was a shorter, plump fellow. He wore white t-shirts and had a pair of New Balance trainers that he never took off. The top of his head had withered completely away, leaving a shine that rivals most high school gyms. He wasn’t a perfect man, but he was proud of his wear and tear.
Lupe was only 15 at the time and was sending out applications to fast food joints around town. They were always looking for workers. The turnover rate was incredible. To Lupe, it felt like the whole high school had already worked the same job she was applying to. Oliva, her best friend, used to work at pizza place she had applied to three weeks ago. Since, she had quit and now works the night shift at the steak-burger shack across the street.
It didn’t take long before Lupe heard back from the pizza place. She received an email titled: Congratulations!!!
She started work that next day.
Lupe was a long, lanky girl with spiderweb hair and boney everything. She used to lie about her height when she was in high school. Being so tall compared to the boys made her feel ugly. Her nose was like her father’s. Round and fat. She’d write in her diary: sometimes I feel like I should be in a stop motion film. I’m too wiry and too noodly. I’m just too TOO. I’m too much everything.
Lupe was too tall for the cash registers, said the manager. “You tower over people, Lupe! You make the customers feel small.” She was sent the back to wash dishes and make dough. At first, she hated it. It made her feel like a monster. But only after a few days, she enjoyed it. No one bothered her as she worked. She came in to work, walked to the back, and worked hard for five hours before her dad drove into the parking lot to take her back home.
Two weeks later, she was given an envelope by her manager. She stuffed it in her back pocket in shame. Lupe had never had a pay check before. She felt like an adult. Embarrassed.
“How much you get, Lupita?” asked Herasmo. They were well on the way back home.
“I don’t know,” replied Lupe.
“What do you mean you don’t know? You haven’t opened it?”
“I’m scared to,” she said.
Herasmo chuckled. “Why are you scared? You worked for the money, so now you deserve the money.”
“What if there isn’t enough though?” she asked.
“Enough for what?”
“To take you out for Chinese,” she admitted.
Herasmo took his eyes off the road and looked to Lupe. She was sickly white. “Where’s the nearest Chinese place?”
Herasmo and his daughter drove to the town’s only Chinese restaurant. They were met with smiles as they were led to the back corner of an empty restaurant. Lupe’s knees touched the bottom of the table.
The waitress took their drink orders.
“A coke please!”
“I’ll also do coke.”
“Okay. Two Pepsi it then.”
The waitress left to Herasmo’s surprise. “Aren’t they going to take my food order?”
“It’s a buffet, dad.”
The two got up and strolled the buffet. Herasmo piled his plate as high. It was a balancing act to make it back to the table without dropping a grain of rice.
Lupe took a few noodles and half a scoop of rice.
“Dad, you do know that you could come back for more, right?”
“Yeah, but you never know. Hey, where are the tortillas?
“Tortillas? Dad, this is Chinese.”
“Yeah I know! They put out all this food, but nothing to eat it with!”
“Just because you eat with tortilla all the time, it doesn’t mean they do. Let’s go sit down before you drop your food, Dad.”
Herasmo took a seat after Lupe fit into the chair across from him again. Both her knees knocked on the table once more. The waitress approached with their drinks.
“Lupita, tell them to get you like five tortillas,” Herasmo whispered.
“They don’t have those here, Dad,” she whispered back. “If you want one so bad, why don’t you ask yourself?”
“I’m embarrassed, mija.”
“Fine. I’ll ask,” she conceded.
“Frijoles (beans) too, mija,” he requested.
“I know they don’t have those. We saw their entire buffet.”
“They could have more in the back,” he said.
“Can you stop?”
“It’s just a question, Lupita.”
“Here are your drinks. Can I do anything for you two for right now?” asked the waitress.
“My daughter has a question,” said Herasmo.
Lupe shot daggers to her father. Finally she swallowed her pride and asked, “Do you have any beans and tortilla in the back?”
Herasmo waited for the response with wide eyes.
“Sorry, but we don’t have that here. That Mexican place, El Corredor, downtown is a good spot for that, but we don’t carry any,” replied the waitress. Herasmo was devastated. He looked onto his mound of food. All that food, but nothing to eat it with.
The waitress walked away. Surely she was on her way to tell her coworkers about Lupe’s request and laugh in the kitchen.
Herasmo took a bite of his food with his fork in defeat. He horked down the rice and noodles with passion. “Wow, Lupe. You were right! This stuff is so good!” Herasmo noted Lupe hadn’t touched her plate. In fact, there wasn’t much on there to eat in the first place. Half a scoop of rice and a few coconut shrimp. “Mija, eat all you can as they say.”
“Yeah, I’ll eat,” she replied.
“I know you eat like a bird, Lupita, but at some point it’s going to be dangerous to not eat.”
“I eat. I guess you don’t see me eat, Dad.”
“Oh I know how much you eat for sure. We eat at the same table, mija.”
The two made eye contact and stared at each other for a moment.
“I’ve talked to your mom about it,” Herasmo said.
“You what!” Lupe yelled.
“Tranquila,” Herasmo said.
“What did you say!”
“I’m too too.”
“Like a ballerina?”
“I’m too much everything, Dad.” Lupe banged her knees against the table. “You see?”
“You’re too tall?” asked Herasmo.
“Too tall, too loud, too long, too boney, too TOO! I do not need to be too big too.”
Herasmo patted the top of his head. “And I’m too bald here.” He patted his gut. “I’ve had too much of your mom’s cooking. I drink too much coffee in the morning, have too much to do some days, and my cousin says I smile too much. You have to be happy with who you are, Lupe.”
Lupe played with her rice. “Yeah, but it’s not the same for you. You already have my mom to love you.”
“Yes, but your mom loves me because of the things I am too much. Not for what I am not. Why are you concerned about the things you don’t have, when you have so much of everything else, mija?”
“I just don’t see it like that, dad.”
“It’s always better to have too much of something than to grieve because you don’t have enough. I’d say I’d want a boy for you, Lupita, that loves you for all that you have to offer instead of what you can barely give.”
“Sure, dad. I’ll love him with my nose and my height and my bones and my hair and my waist and my weirdness and my round eyes and my feet and my voice and my chubby cheeks and my long fingers and my everything else that I won’t mention because we’ll be here forever.”
“How else would you love? Without the handfuls of everything you have to offer?”
The meal was excellent.